After two years of construction, the mics are hot at a new south-end recording studio.
Mix11 Studios opened its doors last summer and initial clients have already included Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara, doing voiceover parts for the upcoming Addams Family animated movie, as well as a bevy of local groups.
"They were both so hilarious," Mix11 Studios owner and lead engineer Daryl Sarnat tells BarrieToday. "They had scripts, but it was kind of a vague guideline. They just went off."
The movie's producers found Sarnat on Google, and says it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
"It was like L.A. was coming here," he says. "It went great."
The fully equipped studio, with rare and vintage gear as well as state-of-the-art software, was hand-built by Sarnat and his wife, Kelly, after moving their young family (four-year-old daughter Aria and 10-month-old son Jaxson) from Calgary to Barrie in September 2016 following his lenghty career in the American recording industry. Sarnat's 18-year-old daughter, Ayla, also lives at the home. Being closer to family members was a draw, with Kelly's mom living in Collingwood and a brother in Toronto.
While he pursues his dream of operating his own recording studio, which allows him more time with his children, the 48-year-old Sarnat also continues to work in intervals as an advanced care paramedic out in Alberta.
"I call it my retirement job. That job also allows me to do this," he says, motioning to his vast array of studio equipment.
Sarnat, who has also worked as a firefighter, has seen his paramedic job take him to cities such as Las Vegas and Denver, as well as all over Alberta, which is where he met Kelly, who was also working as paramedic.
A dual citizen, Sarnat was born in Virginia to parents who were physicians and has lived in many locales, but grew up in Canada. He was in Grade 3 when his parents moved to Calgary. It's also the same time he took up trumpet.
"I always said I was never going to get into medicine, because both of my parents are world-renowned doctors," he says with a laugh. "My mom has passed away, but my dad was the head of Cedars-Sinai in L.A., in child neurology. My mom was ... a neonatologist. I eventually somehow still got interested in (medicine)."
But music is his first love and running his own studio was what really beckoned him.
"I sort of switched majors a little bit. I was a jazz trumpet major, a composition major, and then I walked into a recording studio and that was it," he says. "It was something sexy and I was drawn in. For some people it's cars, but for me it's audio gear."
Sarnat now brings more than two decades of recording experience to the table. He graduated in 1996 with a bachelor of science in music recording from the University of Southern California and went on to work with a long list of TV shows (Beverly Hills 90210, Home Improvement and the Golden Globes), as well as charting artists and industry giants.
His career began in North Hollywood at the world-famous Sound Chamber, and then onto one of the top studios in Seattle, called Stepping Stone.
Sarnat's passion eventually led him to open his first studio, Recording Lair, in Olympia, Wash. With multiple employees and a massive clientele, the studio thrived for 10 years. But with the dawn of “the digital music age” in the new millennium, the recording industry began to suffer greatly.
But there were also some saving graces that came with that, too. Being able to share files over the internet and connect with industry folks through things like Skype, Sarnat says being in Barrie has few downfalls.
"Our basic business plan is to charge less and give more," he says. "We're giving them products that are comparable to major-label releases. That's our goal, anyway, so hopefully that's what we're doing."
He has seen a lot of changes in the recording industry. What used to involve several takes and using the best one has now morphed into being able to modify the smallest things at the touch of a button.
"In the '60s, the Beatles did a lot of stuff that was cutting edge at the time," he says, adding other analogue studios from that era had a sound that remains difficult to replicate even with modern technology. "They still can't build units as good as what they were doing in the '50s with Frank Sinatra, for example."
With his business, Sarnat says his short-term goal is to get his name out there and record more local bands.
"We've been pretty busy and are doing well, but we want to make sure everyone hears about us," he says. "There's so much talent around here, so it would be great for us to have a band come through and hit the Junos or start hitting it big. They have the potential, so hopefully some of them will start getting recognized."
Sarnat is already getting positive reviews for his work with local bands, such as The Noolands, The Mystics, Bigfoots Hand (video and music being released Aug. 2), Kansas Stone, Ryan Taylor (who has a new release set for July 11), Cudbear, Double 88, Garret Seis (slated for summer release), and 1+1=.
“What we learned early on is that you'll always feel comfortable at Mix11," says Aaron Casey from The Noolands. "You can hear these elements on all of our new songs and we feel incredibly lucky to have worked on this new music with Daryl.”
While recording supplements his income and there are always several projects on the go, Sarnat says people don't get into the occupation for the money.
"My main thing is I want to work with nice people," he says. "Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara? Super nice people. If someone comes in here with massive amounts of talent and is an A-hole, well, I'm just doing this for fun."
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